Empress of the East: Book summary and reviews of Empress of the East by Leslie Peirce

Empress of the East

How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire

by Leslie Peirce

Empress of the East by Leslie Peirce X
Empress of the East by Leslie Peirce
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2017
    368 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

The extraordinary story of the Russian slave girl Roxelana, who rose from concubine to become the only queen of the Ottoman empire.

In Empress of the East, historian Leslie Peirce tells the remarkable story of a Christian slave girl, Roxelana, who was abducted by slave traders from her Ruthenian homeland and brought to the harem of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in Istanbul. Suleyman became besotted with her and foreswore all other concubines. Then, in an unprecedented step, he freed her and married her. The bold and canny Roxelana soon became a shrewd diplomat and philanthropist, who helped Suleyman keep pace with a changing world in which women, from Isabella of Hungary to Catherine de Medici, increasingly held the reins of power.

Until now Roxelana has been seen as a seductress who brought ruin to the empire, but in Empress of the East, Peirce reveals the true history of an elusive figure who transformed the Ottoman harem into an institution of imperial rule.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Fascinating from beginning to end, Peirce's telling of Roxelana's story illuminates her remarkable life and the evolution of a long-lived empire that straddled two continents." - Publishers Weekly

"Peirce chronicles the remarkable life and times of Roxelana, the Eastern European slave girl who reshaped her own destiny after being kidnapped and inducted into the harem of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent." - Booklist

This is a book that should be read by anyone interested in understanding the deep history of Turkey, the Ottoman empire, and the Muslim Middle East." - Larry Wolff, author of The Singing Turk

"A riveting story of power, patronage and harem politics in sixteenth century Istanbul. Roxelana, the slave who became a sultana, deserves to figure at least as prominently in the annals of women's history as her famous European contemporaries." - Sarah Gristwood, author of Game of Queens

"This page-turning narrative of an Ottoman sultan's passion draws us deeply into the household of a couple that broke all the rules. Peirce sets Suleyman and Roxelana's intimate lives within the context of the times, to show how the personal was inescapably political. Roxelana has at last found the biographer she deserves." - Caroline Finkel, author of Osman's Dream

"A brilliant book that restores one of the most fascinating women in Islamic history to prominence. Leslie Pierce, the foremost authority on the Ottoman imperial harem, has done her subject justice in this exquisitely crafted biography." - Eugene Rogan, author of The Fall of the Ottomans

"It takes solid scholarship to turn the potentially Orientalist tale of a young slave who became the wife of the most powerful sovereign of the sixteenth century into an accurate and well-documented historical narrative...Roxelana/Harrem's story is a novel and rather unique way to discover or revisit one of the most fascinating episodes of Ottoman history." - Edhem Eldem, Bogazici University, Istanbul

"Leslie Peirce brings Roxelana to life as wife, mother, and sultana, and gives us a vivid picture of her Muslim world. A gripping and well-told tale!" - Natalie Zemon Davis, author of Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds

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Author Information

Leslie Peirce

Leslie Peirce is Silver Professor of History, Middle Eastern, and Islamic Studies at New York University. The award-winning author of two previous books, Peirce lives in New York City.

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